The Whiteboard: It’s halftime: Be sure to assess your team’s performance
It is hard to believe, but we are already at the halfway point of 2012. The days are getting shorter, and so is the time we all have to achieve our goals for the year.
Here are some suggestions for performing a systematic review of where your business stands and for planning the second half of the year.
Start with a thorough strategic plan review. I frequently recommend monthly reviews, but I know most businesses don’t follow that advice. So at least do a thorough review at midyear.
Review progress on the action plans for this year. Is your team on schedule, or is the schedule slipping? What can be done to get back on track? How does spending on strategic initiatives compare to the budget, and will spending need to be ramped up to stay on schedule?
In conjunction with this action plan review, it is important to ask, “Is our strategy working? Is it still valid and, if not, how should we adapt?” It makes no sense to continue spending time and money on a bad strategy, so if this question hasn’t been asked regularly, ask it now.
If the answer is that your strategy isn’t working or valid, adapt your plan and take the time to understand how that will affect your revenue and spending for the rest of the year. If a strategy is working better than planned, how can you accelerate implementation and what extra benefits can you expect?
On an individual level, midyear is a good time to review individual performance throughout the organization. I’m not suggesting the time investment and rigor of the regular annual performance review. But I am suggesting that it is a good idea to formally check in on performance more than once a year.
At their annual review, employees may be given specific individual goals to achieve or they may be tasked with contributing to achieving a team goal. Some of them may be told to make specific individual improvements or changes. Does it make sense that the only time those things will be discussed again is at the next annual review?
A midyear review can be done without a huge effort. Ask employees for a very brief report on progress toward their goals and, if they are behind, what they plan to do to recover. Then have a brief meeting with each of them to review the results.
That will have several benefits. It will shine a light on how they are doing while there may be enough time to react to any problems. It will be an opportunity to recognize and reinforce those who are making the effort and having success. For those who aren’t making the effort, it will provide an opportunity to hold them accountable and get them motivated.
Make sure part of the individual review includes training plans. Many individual performance reviews include a section on training needed either to improve performance in a current position or to prepare for promotion.
Do you notice the same training shows up in an individual review year after year? I see it frequently, not because it isn’t important, but because it is so easy to let training slide compared with the daily urgencies of the job. By midyear, if someone hasn’t forced a firm schedule for training, you might as well pencil it in for next year.
Having completed these reviews, it should be possible to make a reasonable forecast of the results for the full year. The results of the first six months provide important data for the forecast.
For mature, static businesses — all things being equal — the most likely outcome is that the second half of the year will be much like the first. Forecasting might be as simple as multiplying the first half by two. However, most businesses aren’t static.
That is why the review of strategic action plans, individual goals and training plans is important. If a growth strategy is working, sales in the second half might ramp up and provide additional profits or support hiring. If an initiative is behind schedule, it not only might fail to provide budgeted revenue, but it might also foreshadow an unexpected increase in expenses to get back on track.
Similarly, first-half profits might look rosy, but if significant funds budgeted for training programs or other individual or department improvement projects have not been spent, spending in the second half might exceed budget and put a damper on profits.
Now is the time to make course corrections. Business is a team sport, and right now it is halftime. As coaches and teams in many sports do, it is important for business leaders and leadership teams to use halftime to assess what is working, what is not and how to win the game.